Holiday tips to help keep the whole family healthy

AS WE ENTER THE HOLIDAY SEASON, the excitement of fall festivals, family gatherings, and holiday parties are worth celebrating. For many, this means gathering to-do lists, party planning, and shopping for family and loved ones. One thing to remember in the holiday preparations is to remain healthy this holiday season! In all of the excitement, don’t forget to take the necessary steps to remain healthy.

There is nothing joyous about getting sick over the holidays. That is one gift you don’t want to share this season. To reduce a person’s chance of illness this holiday season, it’s important to practice good health behaviors.

First and foremost, get the flu shot. The flu shot is recommended for all Floridians six months of age and older on a yearly basis. Certain groups of people are at higher risk of influenza-related complications and are strongly encouraged to get a flu shot. These groups are adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and individuals of all ages with certain chronic conditions such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes, or who are morbidly obese. There are a few situations when a flu shot is not recommended. This includes individuals who had a previous serious reaction to a flu shot, or those with a history of the neurologic condition called Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

The flu shot is widely available and takes just a few minutes to reduce a person’s risk of illness. Flu shots are offered in many locations including doctor’s offices, clinics, pharmacies, schools, as well as the health department. While it may be tempting not to take the flu seriously, influenza remains a leading cause of vaccine-preventable deaths in the United States.

Secondly, be sure to keep hands and surfaces clean this holiday season. Keeping hands washed and cleaned can help reduce the spread of germs and diseases that are easily transmitted this time of year. Washing hands for 20 seconds with warm, soapy water is a great way to reduce one’s chances of catching whatever illnesses may be going around. Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces can also greatly reduce the spread of germs, too.

Lastly, practice healthy lifestyle habits this holiday season. Many look forward to holiday food and treats this time of year. Although these are great things to enjoy, it doesn’t have to be difficult to maintain a nutritious diet and physical activity. The 5-2-1-0 healthy habits initiative introduces an easy solution to making the healthy choice the easy choice this holiday season. 5-2-1-0 encourages individuals to:

• Eat at least FIVE fruits and vegetables every day.

• Limit screen time to two hours or less per day. Screen time includes TV, computers, video games, smartphones, etc.

• Get one hour or more of physical activity every day. Make time to be active.

• Drink fewer sugar-sweetened drinks. Try water and fat-free milk for children two years and older.

Make a choice to start the holiday season off right by practicing good health behaviors. Don’t let the seasonal illnesses take the fun out of this holiday season. Let’s be proactive and take these simple steps to minimize your chances of getting sick this season. For more information, please visit


column by DR. JOY JACKSON

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Joy Jackson, an internal medicine physician, serves the community as director of the Florida Department of Health in Polk County (DOH-Polk). For more information about DOH-Polk, visit

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